Supporting Athletics a Home Run for All

Machmud Makhmudov, Columnist and Student Senate Liaison

It’s not unusual for me to find myself sitting with a group of friends that includes talented musicians, accomplished thespians, passionate political activists and — as hard as it may be to imagine at Oberlin — even a vegetarian or two. Beyond being students, they all share another characteristic: competing as varsity student-athletes for Oberlin.

As a member of the baseball team, I’ll admit that despite Oberlin’s reputation for having independent thinkers, it’s not unusual for athletes on campus to be lumped together as one homogeneous group. In fact, the stereotype of the dumb jock is pervasive across America. In colleges and universities, where athletes are sometimes held to lower admissions standards than other students, the stereotype can be exacerbated. These sentiments contribute to the idea that athletes exist as a separate, academically dysfunctional entity at Oberlin.

However, many athletes excel in the classroom by applying some of the skills that are learned on the field. According to the NCAA, approximately 80 percent of student-athletes graduate from their college or university. Conversely, nonathletes complete their degrees at a rate of 63 percent. Depending on the sport, some teams even boast average GPAs that are higher than the school-wide average. The discipline, motivation and preparation that are gained by being a full-time athlete translate well into the classroom. Put into the context of having to endure the physical exhaustion of morning workouts and afternoon practices, academic accomplishments become even more impressive.

Besides academics, Oberlin athletes are heavily involved in other ways as well. It’s difficult not to find athletes involved in any aspect of student life on campus. I’ve

seen them tutor in the local schools, serve on student government and complete impressive honors projects. A few brave souls even endure a full double-degree courseload along with their athletic schedules.

If there’s anything that athletes sometimes shy away from, it’s OSCA. Unfortunately, the 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. practice time that most teams utilize — as well as a fulltime competition schedule — prevents a lot of athletes from either being able to attend meals or put in the required work time. The portions of food that co-ops serve are also usually not enough to sustain somebody looking to put on weight. A few people manage to make it work, however. If I have any regrets over my time at Oberlin, it’s the fact that I won’t be able to live or eat in a co-op.

Unfortunately, it sometimes seems as if athletes at Oberlin don’t enjoy the same level of support from their fellow students as other groups do. I, for one, love seeing my friends perform in musicals or concerts. Besides the fact that I enjoy seeing them do something that they’re passionate about, they’re also incredibly talented and a privilege to watch. Oberlin does a tremendous job as a community in supporting one another and attending artistic or political events. We have room to improve in athletics, however, where I’ve noticed that the only people who typically attend games are other student-athletes. Given that many spring sports seasons are still underway (including baseball), I encourage everybody to catch a game on the weekend if they can. If you’re not interested in sports, just the experience of seeing a friend compete for your school can be exciting as well.

As somebody who at one time was heavily involved in musical theater — with varying levels of success — in between baseball practices, I can assure you that you never know what you’ll find with Oberlin student-athletes. Athletes should be judged just like everybody else at Oberlin: as individuals with their own stories and experiences.